Roy G. Krenkel, Fantasy artist
My Favorite Artist: the Great Roy G. Krenkel
Roy Gerald Krenkel (AKA RGK) was born July 11, 1918 in the Bronx, NY. His father was Frederick
Krenkel, a second generation German immigrant, who worked as a cutter at a clothing factory. His
mother was Louise Kuppenhoffer. She was also a child of German immigrants. At the time of his birth
his father was 41 and his mother was 34. He was an only child. They lived at 4692 Park Avenue, Bronx,
In 1938 he studied at the Art Students League with George Bridgman. He served as a Private in the U.S.
Army in the Philippines during WW2. His enlistment papers of January 23, 1942 record him as living in
Queens, and having graduated high school, single, without dependents, and employed as an actor.
After the war, Krenkel returned to NYC, where he attended classes with Burne Hogarth at the
Cartoonists and Illustrators School, which later became the School of Visual Arts. In the 1950s he
worked in the comic book industry for publishers, such as ACG, Atlas, Eastern, EC, and Harvey. He also
worked for pulp magazines like, Fantastic Science Fiction, Marvel Science Fiction, Space Stories, and
Science Fiction Adventures.
In 1962 Donald Wolheim, the editor of ACE Books in the late '50s through the sixties, hired Krenkel to
be the lead artist for the 1962-5 revival of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ works. Wolheim had seen Krenkel's
work in fanzines such as Amra, a fan-produced magazine devoted to the works of Burroughs and
Conan creator Robert E. Howard. Wolheim chose him, because to the ACE editor Krenkel's style
resembled that of J. Allen St. John, the illustrator of many Burroughs first editions and magazine
covers. Roy's first Edgar Rice Burroughs covers for ACE were for At The Earth's Core (F-156 SF 1962)
and The Moon Maid (F-157 SF 1962). Both were instant successes with the buying public, establishing a
visual style for future ACE editions and for ERB paperback and hardback reprints that publishers can't
completely escape to this day. For an example, take a look at the Fall River Press editions of
Burroughs in book stores at this moment and you will see Roy's influence guiding the art direction of
those editions. The ACE editor always tried to pressure Krenkel to imitate St. John. However,
Krenkel's style simply couldn't be sublimated. RGK's clear and fluid line drawings and paintings are
distinctively original and have become iconic in the world of Burroughs illustration, particularly to baby-
boomers, like myself, discovering his work for the first time in the early sixties.
Even though Roy was a brilliant draftsman, very often he did not do well meeting deadlines. He also
professed to having problems handling color in his work. Sometime in 1962 or '63, he asked his friend
Frank Frazetta, out of work at the time, to help him when deadlines pressed or when he felt he needed
support with color. Occasionally, the two artists would work together on ACE Books commissions.
The cover of Tarzan Triumphant is an example of this collaboration. When Roy found himself unable to
meet the demands of the ACE editor, the ever-generous Krenkel asked Wolheim to hire his friend
Frank to do the cover illustration. Against his own preferences, the desperate editor asked Frank to do
the cover art for Tarzan and the Lost Empire. And, as they say, the rest is history, because Frazetta
went on to become the most popular fantasy artist of the 20th or any other century. According to
Frazetta, "Roy Krenkel has never ceased to be a constant source of inspiration to me. . ." To the last,
Frazetta, the acknowledged master of fantasy illustration, told everyone of his appreciation for the leg-
up his friend had provided at a critical juncture in his brilliant career.
Roy spent his last decades illustrating the works of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs for a
variety of publishers of hardcover, paperbacks, and fanzines.
Roy Krenkel died of cancer at age 64 on February 24, 1983.
Few art critics will ever call Krenkel a great illustrator, but to the fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs and
Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, he ranks among the highest. He was generous with his work,
often giving away drawings and paintings, knowing he would receive nothing but the accolade of fans.
He will always be my own personal favorite in the pantheon of great Burroughs artists.
Roy G. Krenkel - year and
purpose unknown - I
downloaded these from a blog
that has long ago disappeared.
I believe the blog said they
were from a fanzine, but I don't
know. However, I strongly
suspect that both are part of the
hundreds of illustrations that
Roy provided gratis to different
fanzines starting with his Conan
and ERB art done for AMRA and
ERB-dom in the early 60s. To
the end of his life, RGK would
enliven and beautify fandom
with his wonderfully fluid
Roy G. Krenkel with Frank
Frazetta. Tarzan Triumphant,
ACE Books, April 1963.
Roy G. Krenkel (1918-1983)